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io9 Newsstand: Best Stories of the Week for October 20 - 25

Illustration for article titled io9 Newsstand: Best Stories of the Week for October 20 - 25

Over on his blog Morning, Computer, Warren Ellis has a few thoughts on the state of SF magazines (mostly of the British variety) prompted by the news that the new New Worlds is now defunct.

"NEW WORLDS was never a nostalgic enterprise. But, perhaps, publishing a speculative fiction magazine is. I had drinks with an editor in publishing last night who remains apoplectic that sf magazines stubbornly refuse to meet the future, change tack, publicise or advertise. We laughed about still not knowing how many copies INTERZONE sells per issue, and how few people seem to know it's still going."

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New magazines rise and fall with alarming regularity in speculative fiction, and this has been the case for as many years as I can remember. Not long ago Subterranean Magazine declared the Summer 2014 issue to be the final one. Next month the first issue of Uncanny Magazine will debut. The cycle continues.

However, the unnamed editor's complaint that magazines aren't meeting the future properly has me wondering: how does the average reader discover magazines? Assuming that people who like science fiction, fantasy, and horror are just as interested in short stories as novels, do they know how much short fiction is out there and available? Do they stick to the most familiar outlets or go in search of more?

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I can't answer that question, but I bet you, the io9 faithful, can.

On your way down to the comments, check out this week's stories.

Image Credit: Sandra Buskirk for Fantasy Magazine

Miss Carstairs and the Merman by Delia Sherman | Women Destroy Fantasy!

The night Miss Carstairs first saw the merman, there was a great storm along the Massachusetts coast. Down in the harbor town, old men sat in taverns drinking hot rum and cocking their ears at the wind whining and whistling in the chimneys. A proper nor'easter, they said, a real widow-maker, and huddled closer to the acrid fires while the storm ripped shingles from roofs and flung small boats against the piers, leaping across the dunes to set the tall white house on the bluffs above the town surging and creaking like a great ship.

In that house, Miss Carstairs sat by the uncurtained window of her study, peering through a long telescope. Her square hands steady upon the barrel, she watched the lightning dazzle on the water and the wind-blown sand and rain scour her garden. She saw a capsized dinghy scud past her beach in kinetoscopic bursts, and a gull beaten across the dunes. She saw a long, dark, seal-sleek figure cast upon the rocky beach, flounder for a moment in the retreating surf, and then lie still.

The shallow tidal pool where the figure lay was, Miss Carstairs calculated, not more than two hundred yards from her aerie. Putting aside the telescope, she reached for the bell pull.

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I'm mostly here for the gender reversal aspect—instead of some creepy guy finding a mermaid or female selkie, it's a slightly creepy woman finding the male of the species. I'm also a fan of the way the merman communicates because it gives Sherman a chance to show off her excellent evocation skills.

Scarey Rose in Deep History by Rebecca Ore | Lightspeed Magazine

"History should not be ancestor worship," Sarey Rose told them as she brought in the last of the time-viewer components and began to calculate how to form the microgates big enough for past light. Her hair was bound up for work. Whether or not she approved of the target, she was working.

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"We need to see our ancestors as people," Peter said. Wearing his family reunion T-shirt, he sat down in one of the reproduction chairs in the plantation house. Mulatto wasn't a word that was used much these days, but Peter was significantly mulatto. His great-grandfather had owned his great-grandmother. The modern day family reunions included both sets of kin. So liberal, Sarey Rose thought, and such a neat way to avoid poor white trash. Now, he and his white half-kin had finagled use of the time-viewer to get back to the primal event. "After all, we're all from here. And we're pretty typical."

Sarey Rose thought that using the time-viewer for Deep River wasted both her time and the money invested in the equipment. But the engineering department needed the history department to get funding, so here it was.

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My liking of this story is complex, because there are several bits or phrases that had me cringing and wincing. Thorny—that's how I would describe the story, the topic, even the prose. Not a bad thing, just a thing.

Beyond that, I have a lot of feelings about this entire setup. Like almost every other Black person in this country, I have mixed ancestry and that mix comes in part from slave owners who took advantage of the women they owned. I, too, come from multiple families where we're well aware of our "white" cousins and have some nominal contact with them. And there is plenty of family lore about our shared ancestors. Would being able to look back through time and see how things went down and confirm or debunk said lore make a difference to us in the here and now?

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A Fairy Tale Life by Darja Malcolm-Clarke | The Dark

His coding renders the bedroom simple, familiar. An open window looks out over a lush wood that stretches as far as Daniel can see. He goes to the farthest of the three beds positioned against the wall. This first bed is firm to his dreambody, firm as a floor. The second is so soft he sinks into it like a brick on a raked-up pile of autumn leaves. The third, the smallest, is of course just right. Though his realbody is back in the lab, unable to move for its induced paralysis, his semi-sleeping mind fully experiences each of these sensations.

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He sits up on the small bed and gazes out the window to the horizon. He has developed this new module for Ian. He hopes it will help make things up to Jenna.

A small noise behind him startles Daniel from the virtual expanse of forest beyond the open window. As he turns, a girl chimes, "Welcome to the Bears' house." It's Goldilocks. Her blond hair gleams in the light from the window, and her hands are folded primly on her white apron. She smiles and says, "Please, sir, call me Aunt Mary."

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Daniel takes it like a blow to the gut. "What did you say?"

Creepy virtual Goldilocks is creepy. If that's not enough to tempt you, I don't know what is.

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K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author and media critic. Follow her on Twitter, G+, Tumblr, or her blog.

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DISCUSSION

There was a time when I bought them all. There was a time when they were all there to buy! "Worlds of If", "analog" Asimov's, F&SF, Galaxy..and I had my favorites. F&SF and analog were the best because the paper was a slightly better quality and the printing was better too, especially with analog. There were ads for good books coming up and name-brand writers almost every month, with the odd serial thrown in. Being a student, they were relatively cheap, and not being an especially good student (as in diligent about things like homework) there seemed to be time to read them all.

By college and university, time was more limited, and funds and room as well. With entry into the workforce... it all went by the wayside. Too tired at the end of the day, sadly I admit I defaulted to TV and movies. Weak tea by comparison.

A few years back, I found a copy of F&SF at a newsstand and bought a subscription, thinking I'd better if I wanted it to survive. Ed Ferman was long gone, and the standards seem to have slipped significantly, but I still subscribe. The paper is cheaper, the covers thinner and admit there are months that go by when I can't get to read it, but it's there on the shelf when I want to.

Like that publisher, I also have to admit to being puzzled that though they have no problems with FTL drives, aliens and spaceships, world governments and hover cars, their advertising is appallingly bad, and subscriptions, if they are computer controlled, must be done by a TRS-80 in someone's broom closet. Don't get me started on their web site.

I honestly hate reading an iPad magazine, though I do read some that way to save paper and space, not to mention the ability to search and some other neat features. When F&SF folds (and I hope thats a long way off) I will probably stop reading SF magazines. There's so much digital noise out there, and so many things screaming for my attention all the time, that the ability to go somewhere with a solitary magazine and just READ for a while will be a pleasure reserved for books. I miss that the magazines were on the news stands and had physical mass. Even though that seems quaint now, I guess.